Read an excerpt from Jack Curry and David Cone's new book, 'Full Count'


In advance of the release of "Full Count," the new book that looks back at former Yankees pitcher David Cone's playing days, including riveting stories from the right-hander's time in pinstripes, YES Network is sharing an excerpt from the book. Written by YES Network's own Jack Curry with Cone, the book provides an inside look at the career of a five-time All-Star and five-time World Series champion.
The book goes on-sale Tuesday, May 14 and can be pre-ordered online ahead of its release date.
You can read the introduction to "Full Count" below.
A REFLECTION
Staring into the bathroom mirror, I saw a sweaty-faced and steely-eyed man who was wondering how the next few minutes of his life would unfold. He looked serious and he looked concerned. I kept staring at the man, studying every inch of that weary face and those focused eyes, and I wondered if the man was powerful enough to pitch one more spotless inning. Please, I thought, just get three more outs.
Obviously, I was that man, the man who placed both hands on the sink, leaned forward, and pushed his nose within six inches of the mirror. I wanted some answers, and I needed some reassurance inside the Yankee Stadium clubhouse bathroom. After tossing eight perfect innings against the Montreal Expos on July 18, 1999, I changed into a fresh undershirt by my locker and retreated to the bathroom. I was alone, all alone, before the ninth inning and I gave myself a specific command: "Don't blow this."
Of all the inspiring words that I could have used, my first words were Don't blow this. I challenged myself because I knew what motivated me, and I knew I responded well to being challenged. As an aspiring nine-year-old pitcher, I received tough love from my father, who was my first coach, so I used the same technique on myself. I let my forceful words sink in, the staring contest continued, and I added, "Don't you dare blow this."
I wanted the reflection to talk back. I really wanted the man in the mirror to tell me he could do this and tell me everything would be all right. Taking inventory of how I had retired the first twenty-four batters, I knew my slider had been floating like a Frisbee, I knew my fastball was nicking the corners, and I knew the Expos seemed helpless as they swung early and often. Based on that mounting evidence, I finally told myself, "You can do this. You have to do this."
Did I believe I could get the final three outs? Well, part of me believed it. Every pitcher has that mental tug-of-war with himself in almost every game. It doesn't have to be a potential perfect game for pitchers to wonder if they're about to get a strikeout with a nasty slider or if they're about to allow a homer on a hanging slider. For pitchers, the questions are never ending.
Throughout my career, I asked myself questions about the way I gripped my pitches, about the spin and velocity on my pitches, about the arm angles I used to deliver pitches, and about the smartest strategies for attacking hitters. Those questions and hundreds of others hover over pitchers, steady reminders about what we should or shouldn't do. I have lots of answers to these pitching questions and I have lots of pitching stories. All of these theories and opinions and tales will be unveiled in this book, an array of ideas from me and from others, a detailed assessment on the art of pitching and my life as a pitcher. I always believed pitchers need to be searchers, mound investigators who determine the best pitch to throw and the best way to throw it. Then do that again and again.
On that day in the stadium bathroom, I took deep breaths as the conversation between the dueling sides of my personality continued. The confident Cone was poised for perfection and envisioned it happening, while doubting David questioned whether it would ever happen. Even if a pitcher has the biggest ego in the world, he's going to experience doubts in pressure-filled situations. Back in 1999, I was trying to do something only fifteen other pitchers in major league history had ever done. I would have been delusional if I didn't have a doubt or two.
I was in my fourteenth major league season and, through all my creativity and quirkiness, I had never stopped and studied myself in the mirror during a game. And I never did it again. But this game was a special situation, a time where I was mature enough to pause, slow my brain and my pulse down, and absorb what was happening. As a thirty-six-year-old, I might never get another chance to pitch a perfect game, and I wanted to prepare myself in the best way possible.
Part of preparing myself meant preparing myself for failure, too. Pitching is a job that involves a lot of failure; even the greatest of pitchers throw balls about 40 percent of the time. So my frenetic mind told me that something could go wrong. There could be a bloop single or a ball that rolled sixty feet for a hit or one of my fielders could make an error or I could walk a batter. If any of those things happened, I needed to be OK with that result. Would I be OK if I ended up being less than perfect?
"Forget that," I said. "No, I won't be OK with that." Thankfully, the aggressive and confident me fought the equally aggressive and doubting me and told me to stay calm and keep pitching the same way. Don't even think about those bleak scenarios, I told myself in a conversation that felt like a devil-versus-angel chat. I guess I was the angel and the devil.
My internal struggle continued inside the bathroom, a bathroom so quiet that I heard water draining through the pipes. The adjacent clubhouse was empty because my superstitious teammates didn't want to talk to a pitcher who was working on a perfect game. No problem there. I just spoke to myself. Knowing the ninth was fast approaching, I had one final question: "What are you going to do now?"
For two or three minutes, I stood by myself and evaluated the man who was pursuing perfection. The last time I glanced in the mirror, I saw someone who looked energized. Maybe I had been revived by my strange pep talk. I knew how I would attack the Expos, so the physical side of my game was ready, but the detour to the mirror was a way to enhance my mental approach.
While I had never stared at myself in the mirror, I perpetually analyzed myself and tried to determine if I was capable of throwing one more strike, notching one more out, and pitching one more inning. Pitching is a constant test; you're always trying to prove you're better than the batter who is standing in the box. I hustled to the mound in the ninth and believed, truly believed, I would get those three outs.
Pitching is never simple, not even for those who succeed at the highest levels. It is complex and confounding, daunting and demanding. It is an art that I still study, still adore, still analyze, and, quite honestly, still miss. The lessons about pitching are constant.
It's time for us to get started on this journey. I'll be your tour guide. I will stare in the mirror again, study myself again, and tell you everything I see.